Charleston County, SC

Summary

The Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) was awarded $2.25 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge to invest in a mix of strategies that will further reduce the average daily jail population over the next three years. To reduce the jail population safely, the CJCC will enhance police practices; increase alternatives to jail for people dealing with mental illness, substance abuse issues, and homelessness pre- and post- booking; pilot automated court reminders; and launch a risk-based pretrial management system to ensure the decision for pretrial release or detention is based on standardized assessments of risk. The CJCC will also expedite indigence screening, improve access to counsel, and reduce time to disposition.  Throughout all of the above, the CJCC will improve the system’s use of data for continuous improvement and accountability.

While the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office is the Safety and Justice Challenge lead agency for administrative purposes, the initiative is led by the CJCC.  The mission of the CJCC is to assist in making sustainable, data-driven improvements to Charleston County’s criminal justice system and thereby improve public safety and community well-being.  In the past, the CJCC led a number of multi-stakeholder criminal justice reform efforts, including the institution of case processing improvements that has reduced average jail stays of probation and parole violators, the creation of a Jail Liaison position to facilitate lawyer-inmate communications, and a $100 million detention center expansion to alleviate overcrowding.  In 2015, the CJCC reignited and expanded its efforts to continue improving the local criminal justice system in Charleston County.

  • 70% of the average jail population is awaiting trial, often due to inability to pay bail
  • African Americans are arrested nearly seven times as often as whites for offenses such as simple possession of marijuana or loitering
  • In 2013-2014, 631 chronic users—who suffer from mental illness, substance use, and homelessness—were each in jail an average of 62 days a year
  • A risk-based decision tool to guide law enforcement discretion at the point of arrest for low-level offenses will ensure police decisions are based on standardized, validated assessments of risk and, as a result, reduce bookings for charges where racial disparities are greatest, such as driver offenses
  • A new Triage Center, where officers can take individuals in crisis to receive treatment and other services, will reduce jail detention for people dealing with mental illness, substance abuse issues, and homelessness
  • An indigence screening will help reduce inappropriate use of financial bonds, improve access to counsel, and reduce time to disposition

Supported with $2.25 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Charleston County aims to reduce their average daily jail population by 25% over the next two years

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